The best recipes are born in an instant. Or, at least that’s how they emerge in my world—in a split second, when hunger and inspiration collide, a product of the exact moment, the day, my mood, the weather, the season. It’s what happened with this one, and this one, and this one, and this one, and this one. And it’s what happened with this very satisfying, very quick, very of-the-season recipe: bucatini with cherry tomatoes, pancetta and basil. This one was the result of a grey day—one that followed a brilliant string of blindingly sunny days; a long work day; a few nights of less-than-stellar sleep. I wanted a warm bowl of something hearty and nourishing, but something that would not waste the precious, waning days of summer.
A basket of tiny tomatoes, red and gold alike, sat on the counter. A package of bucatini was stashed in the pantry. A few basil leaves threatened to wilt in the fridge. And two thick rounds of pancetta were a mere trip to the corner market away—nothing a sweet call to Kevin, a quick bat of my eye lashes, and a promise of pasta! with pancetta! and plenty of parm! couldn’t solve.
While Kevin was procuring the pork, I set a pot of water on to boil, and plucked the stems from the tomatoes. I reduced a few cloves of garlic into paper-thin slices, minced up the basil, and readied a couple healthy pinches of chili flakes. The recipe was taking shape in my mind’s eye, just as the water started to boil. It occurred to me that some acid might be nice, against that richness of the pancetta, so I halved a lemon, too. I poured myself a glass of white wine, and kept the bottle close by, thinking it would add some depth to the sauce.
Kevin returned just as I slid the pasta into the bubbling water. In a skillet, I crisped up the pancetta (diced), with a sheen of olive oil to help things along. Then I added the garlic and chili flakes, and, in a matter of seconds, the dish took on the exact fragrance I’d imagined. In went the tomatoes, with a sizzle. As the tomatoes cooked, some slumped and some split, sending their summer-sweet juices into the pan. A squeeze of lemon and a glug of white wine later, I left the sauce to simmer until the pasta was al dente.
I tossed the whole thing together, slid it onto a plate, and scattered parmesan and basil on top. Dinner was served, and a recipe was born.